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12 steps to achieving Microsoft Dynamics 365 project success

Any successful Microsoft Dynamics 365 project involves a large amount of resource and planning and can carry a significant investment for any business.

Ensuring that your Microsoft Dynamics 365 project can meet both the current and future needs of the business and will be well adopted by the workforce are two of the main challenges you will need to tackle along your projects journey. After all, there is little point having a state of the art platform that doesn’t suit the current needs of the business and is too complicated for your workforce to adopt. These needs are very different for both our smaller business and mid-market clients. In this blog, we explore the 12 most important considerations to help your business achieve Microsoft Dynamics 365 project success right from the initial planning stage to post roll out and beyond.

1: Build a project team

Before you implement a Microsoft Dynamics 365 project, it’s important to get buy in from several teams across the business as these will not only be internal ambassadors supporting the project but will also need to make crucial decisions to the project plan along the way. In the initial stages, we recommend you form a dedicated project team that includes (as a minimum) an executive sponsor (Director level) and a dedicated project manager that is the first point of contact for our Microsoft Dynamics 365 consultants to liaise with throughout the project. You’ll also need a CRM administrator to oversee the technical requirements and functionality as well as several department champions from each team that will use the solution. These people will be able to beta test along the way and make minor amends. Having a dedicated project manager as the single point of contact between us and the client boosts project efficiency and enables us to spend as much time as possible on delivering the solution than getting involved in internal delays – which can quickly eat up the time we’ve quoted. By having a dedicated internal team behind all our Microsoft Dynamics 365 client projects, we can ensure that our specialist expertise is being shared and absorbed by as many people within the client’s business as possible and also deliver the project with minimal delays. Also, the collaboration of the variety of departments within the client’s project team members ensure the Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution we deliver is designed to accommodate the needs of the business as a whole (not just the views of two people within the company) which is proven to increase user adoption on rollout.

2: Define a clear vision of your Dynamics 365 solution

Ask yourself the following questions before you commit to any Microsoft Dynamics 365 project:

  • What are the current pinch points you want to alleviate within the business?
  • What does project success look like? What will we be able to do with your new system?
  • How will the new solution align to the overall business strategy?
  • What is the end goal dream solution for the business and when should this be achieved? Eg 2 years/5 years/10 years

To avoid any unnecessary waste of time and budget, our Microsoft Dynamics 365 Consultants work with our clients to defining the project outcome before we commence any Microsoft Dynamics 365 project. During our initial discovery sessions, we will learn about how your business operates and understand the current processes in place. We’ll also discuss your current business pinch points and propose to design an efficient Dynamics 365 solution using the best suited applications within the product stack to improve business performance.

3: Prioritise your CRM goals

The perfect Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution will accommodate hundreds of business goals once fully rolled out, however when beginning to plan a Dynamics 365 project of any scale, its imperative that the dedicated project team within the business establish what these goals are and prioritise them in to ‘phases’. Infinity Group run all Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects using the Agile project methodology. Carefully developing and rolling out each phase as it’s ready. This is an efficient way of working as it enables our clients to adjust their priorities as the project phases develop and allocate internal resource to each phase. More importantly, by breaking down a large project into phases our clients get total transparency of where their money is being spent and at what time. Larger Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects can be costly as a one off fee but the phased approach enables the business to budget for each phase and we’ll undertake it at a time best suited to the aspirations of the business keeping the momentum high and maximising internal adoption levels.

4: Agree on KPIs

Before you start on a replacement CRM project you should benchmark your current performance, by recording the time it takes to complete tasks such as lead creation or creating orders and the total amount of steps it takes to perform each task. You should also record user adoption levels and get feedback from staff internally about their future CRM improvements that you may want to include in certain phases of the project. This benchmarking can then be compared to the new solution to demonstrate great improvement, and you can use these stats to showcase the new solution to your users

5: Plan for maximum user adoption

It’s simple, your employees will not adopt the business’ Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution if they don’t feel it helps them carry out the daily tasks in their job roles. This is why user adoption must be taken into account at the initial design stage. User wants and needs should be collated at the start of the project and the dedicated project team should determine which ones are to be met. They also need to be kept up to date about the project developments along the way and it should be made clear why the business is investing in a new system and the benefits it will bring to them. By doing this your users will feel included in the project itself and hopefully adopt a positive attitude to the project rather than a negative one which can be hard to change no matter how good the final solution is. Before launch it is important that users are fully trained to use the solution to maximise its efficiency and adoption. We include comprehensive user training within all our projects to the core team, which then normally train other teams themselves internally.

6:Map out existing business processes

The best way to improve internal processes is to map them all out in their current state. This way, none will be overlooked and the internal project team are able to analyse the existing processes. After this, and with our Consultants’ assistance, we can agree on process improvements and define how they will be implemented in the Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution. With the application suite in Microsoft Dynamics 365, the majority of business processes can be automated within the platform. To remove unnecessary duplications of effort and for maximum business efficiency these automated processes should be utilised as much as possible – however this will also require a change in mind-set. Our Dynamics 365 Consultants are experienced at re-engineering business processes for all types and sizes of business.

7: Minimising risk

Enterprise level Microsoft Dynamics 365 projects involve a significant investment.  Before starting any project, we recommend significant time is invested in analysing the project risks. Here are some of the most common risks that the majority of our clients face with some suggested solutions.

  1. Users not adopting the solution – Involve your key users early on in the solution design stage to ensure all their needs are being met in the new solution. If they feel these are accommodated they will likely fully adopt the solution once it’s launched.
  2. Successful improvement of existing business processes – We run our Dynamics 365 projects using an agile methodology meaning the main project is broken down into small sprints. This enables you to trial the new process improvements as they are rolled out so you are able to further refine them if required.
  3. How secure will our data be in the new solution? Microsoft house their data in a high secure G-Cloud certified environment at one of their three GDPR and ISO 27001 compliant data centres within the UK. They also have a comprehensive range of legal documents available on this.
  4. Will the new solution improve our customer experience? We recommend carrying out some initial focus groups with key existing customers where they can make recommendations to improve their overall experience, e.g. refining a process, the method of getting in touch, the email communications they receive. This valuable feedback will contribute to the new solution design and can be reviewed along the way. A good customer experience will likely grow the business as they’ll recommend your business to others.
  5. Will our solution be fit for purpose in 5 years time after significant company growth? Microsoft Dynamics 365 can accommodate enterprise grade businesses with huge amounts of data and advanced functionality needs. The flexible licensing options and capabilities can be customised to grow at the same pace as your business does. There is no chance of your business outgrowing the solution but your business processes may need a lot of refinement along the way as other elements within the business grow.

8: Managing user privileges

To enable a robust data security model, user privileges must be clearly defined at the start of the project so we can ensure once the project goes live that each user is assigned the correct access level. Restricting access to certain users/departments in the business ensures that your data is kept secure but also that access to confidential information within your Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution is fully restricted. You are also able to restrict what information can be extracted by employees from the solution e.g. Reports and exports. With Microsoft Dynamics 365, user management can be managed centrally by your dedicated project team avoiding unnecessary additional costs and delays in adding/removing users and amending access privileges.

9: Plan your Dynamics 365 integrations

All businesses operate in their own unique way and the majority of larger CRM projects integrate with a wide variety of third party applications and data feeds from other sources such as email marketing platforms, finance packages such as Sage, document management and eCommerce platforms. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is one of the market leading business platforms that can easily integrate with a multitude of third party applications via APIs.

10: Prepare and cleanse your data

The effort involved in consolidating and preparing your data for the migration to a new CRM system is always underestimated. There is little point in importing data to the new system that hasn’t been cleansed as this will hinder the efficiency of the new platform and may also affect user adoption. Here are some considerations for data cleansing:

  • Establish what specific data needs to be stored within Microsoft Dynamics 365
  • Where is this data currently stored?
  • How historic do you want the data available in the new CRM platform to be: 12 months? 5 years?
  • Who will manage the cleansing of duplicate client data?
  • What additional data fields do our sales teams need to capture in the new platform setup?
  • Will the data be cleansed manually or automatically by a specialist tool?

11: Secure your data under GDPR regulations

Data security is an important element to any Microsoft Dynamics 365 project. It’s important to establish how secure your data will be kept within the new CRM platform. We chose to partner with Microsoft due to their comprehensive and highly secure set of compliance offerings and their commitment to security, privacy and transparency alongside GDPR compliance.  They were also the first provider to obtain the prestigious ISO 27018 cloud privacy standard. The data stored within any Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution is either stored in the Cloud (using Microsoft Azure) or On-Premise via a local server within your business environment. Your business needs to make the decision as to which option is best suited to their needs. (Read more about the two hosting types here) If you opt for the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Cloud hosting option then Microsoft Azure is a highly secure environment for data storage and is GDPR, ISO 27001 and G-Cloud certified. The On-Premise option offers greater control of your data however the security of the data itself remains the sole responsibility of the business itself.

12: Understand the importance of continued investment

A newly deployed Microsoft Dynamics 365 solution, if designed and implemented correctly, should meet all the current needs of the business. The platform itself has the capabilities to future proof the majority of business requirements; however, we educate our clients to understand, as the business grows and develops you may need to further invest to implement additional features. Also, it is important as you recruit new employees or implement additional functionality that you invest in additional training. This will enable new staff to understand and use the full solution and prevent them learning the shortcuts and workarounds other colleagues have picked up over time. Additional training will also enable existing staff to fully embrace the new functionality once it’s rolled out rather than learn it on the job and risk under utilising the new functionality. Our Microsoft Dynamics 365 Consultants can advise any predicted future development costs at the start of the project to ensure these can be budgeted for at a later date.

If you have any questions about Microsoft Dynamics 365 please get in touch. As Microsoft Gold Partners, we know the latest information about this powerful business platform, please also visit the dedicated application pages in the top menu.